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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey | Ian Holm, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee | Review

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The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' film trilogy was a worldwide phenomenon, raking in over $3 billion at the box office and winning a total of 17 Oscars.

Now, one of the most anticipated films in years, the prequel to Lord of the Rings epic saga, 'The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey' based on JRR Tolkien's novel that was published 17 years before LOTR,  has made it to the big screen thanks to director Peter Jackson.  The visionary filmmaker has broken new ground by creating an immersive new experience like nothing ever before for movie going audiences.

Instead of the normal 24 frames per second, Jackson shot 'The Hobbit' in super high definition format and at 48 frames per second, which along with 3D effects, brings the level of screen image clarity and realism to new heights.  I saw a segment from the film at the 2012 CinemaCon convention and trade show, and after being blown away by what my eyes took in, I couldn't wait to experience the film in its entirety.

Like each one of the previous Lord of the Rings installments that takes place in the fictional, fantasy land of Middle Earth, the film adaptation of The Hobbit, written by Jackson,  Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro is a visual masterpiece.

The story kicks off with the older version of Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) recounting his adventure 60 years earlier.  As a young man (Martin Freeman) Bilbo received an unexpected visit by the Wizard Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen) for the purpose of recruiting the young hobbit to accompany a team of dwarves and their warrior leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an adventure to reclaim their homeland, the Kingdom of Erebor, from the fearsome fire breathing dragon Smaug.

The Hobbit follows the archetypical hero's journey in which the main character comes to realize his inner strength and powerful capabilities. Bilbo is reluctant at first to leave the comfort and safety of his home at Bag End in the Shire, but is convinced by Gandalf to join the group of 13 dwarves regardless of the risks involved, and of course there are many dangers along the perilous quest to the far away destination of Lonely Mountain.

On the way, the brave crew encounter deadly Orcs, Wargs, thieving giant Trolls that want to cook them on a barbeque and feed their ugly faces, along with getting caught in the middle of a battle between mountains of rocks that come alive. Winding up in a goblin tunnel alongside an underground lake, Bilbo comes in contact with the deformed little creature that talks to himself, Gollum (once again played by Andy Serkis in a superb CGI motion captured performance) with whom he is forced to play a game of riddles. It is during this sequence where Bilbo gains possession of the “precious” ring that, as we all know, comes into play as the central focus of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Readers of The Hobbit novel will notice that the script writers have taken plenty of creative license and include characters from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  A visit to Land of the Elves brings Elf Queen, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Lord Elron (Hugo Weaving) and the White Wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) into the scenario.  There is also the introduction of another wizard, the forest dwelling, animal loving, Radagast the Brown ( Sylvester McCoy), who warns of an evil presence, the dark sorcerer Sauron, The Necromancer (voiced by Benedict Cumberbach of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) residing in an abandoned fortress, who has the power to summon the dead.

Beautifully crafted with plenty of action, engaging story, and eye dazzling gorgeous CGI landscapes and majestic vistas, The Hobbit is a work of art that brings to mind the idyllic scenery and vivid colors of Maxfield Parish's paintings.

Stretching the 320 pages of the popular novel into three movies, the first of the Hobbit film series is a bit long, clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes.  That said, it kept my interest and sparked my anticipation for what lies ahead in the next installment.  

For those who say the Hobbit is more of the same from Peter Jackson and his creative team, my response is open your eyes and see this film for all its worth.


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